Baiba Skride / John Storgårds / Danish National Symphony Orchestra

Schumann: Violinkonzerte; Phantasie

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Those unaware that Robert Schumann wrote even one violin concerto may be surprised to see two named in the title of this German release. The Violin Concerto in A minor was an arrangement of the Cello Concerto, Op. 129, made by Schumann himself for the violinist Joseph Joachim. The main attraction here is the Violin Concerto in D minor, WoO 23, which was suppressed by Joachim and Clara Schumann, who decided that it reflected Robert's encroaching insanity. The work's massive first movement and galumphing polonaise finale are challenging both for the performer and the listener, but since the concerto was championed by Yehudi Menuhin several decades ago, various performers have taken a whack at it and have produced widely varying results that continue to interest listeners even if you're still not likely to hear the concerto on your local symphony series. This reading by Latvian violinist Baiba Skride is a case in point. She and conductor John Storgårds almost emphasize the work's size and ungainliness, taking slow tempos (they clock in at more than 33 1/2 minutes, versus less than 28 for Menuhin's classic recording) and pounding away at the motor rhythms in the finale. The performance gives the work some real heft, and in this context it makes a nice foil to the highly virtuosic Fantasy in C major, Op. 131, which Skride brings off without a hitch. The Cello Concerto, if you have a violinist like Skride who can handle the transcription, is arguably more effective in its violin version; the instrumental balances are better. Recommended for Schumann buffs, especially those fascinated by his final lucid period.

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